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Defense witnesses recant testimony in Saddam trial

[JURIST] Four defense witnesses in the trial of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] said Monday that they were coerced into testifying by the former Iraqi president's bodyguards and coached by his lead lawyer. Two of the witnesses said in confessions read in court that they had been offered $500 bribes for their testimony, while two others said their families had been threatened. The witnesses now face legal action for perjury, Chief Judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman [BBC profile] said. The same witnesses testified last month that chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Musawi had tried to bribe them [JURIST report] to testify against Hussein. After the bribery allegations, the witnesses were detained by US and Iraqi officials [JURIST report], leading the defense team to protest [JURIST report]. One of Hussein's lawyers said Monday that the witnesses' confessions, and not their earlier testimony, were coerced.

Three other defense witnesses testified Monday, including a half-brother of Hussein, Barzan al-Tikriti. After Barzan was thrown out of court for insulting the judge, Hussein rose to say: "This trial is in need of some mental relaxation. It feels like we are in a minefield." AFP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

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